ASU alumna brings powerful voice back to college as an Emerging Leader

September 25, 2017

Since graduating with a bachelor’s degree in creative writing from Arizona State University, Amanda Ventura has been developing her writing style with a career in public relations and marketing while remaining involved in the university community.

“I think people who are creative are naturally curious so they gravitate toward the sciences,” said Ventura, who started her undergraduate studies as a biology major. “That’s what appealed to me most, but my strengths were definitely in writing and reporting.” Arizona State University alumna, Amanda Ventura Arizona State University alumna, Amanda Ventura graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English (creative writing) from the Department of English in 2011. Download Full Image

Ventura switched her major after being drawn to the written word and learning how to manipulate language to tell stories. In 2011, she received a Bachelor of Arts in English with an emphasis in creative writing from the Department of English.

After graduation, she worked as a freelance writer for many publications in Arizona, including Arizona Business Magazine, Phoenix New Times and PHOENIX magazine.

“I decided to switch over to public relations because you can tell the same story in five or six different ways,” she said. “When you’re working for one publication, you’re confined to their beat, their readership and a certain style. So, in public relations, I was able to get a little more creative and that’s why I fell in love with it and why I’m still doing it.”

Ventura is currently a senior account manager at Evolve, where she helps a handful of clients grow their brand through communication and marketing. She assesses the past and current state of a company’s public relations and marketing strategy and devises an updated plan to take these initiatives to the next level with out-of-the-box thinking.

“I like collecting stories and getting to know everyone, understanding their own route to where they currently are,” said Ventura, when asked about her favorite part of her career. “It’s always varied and I think that’s something creative people need.”

Ventura is thankful she had the opportunity to work with the talented writers in the Department of English. She had courses with T.M. McNally, director of creative writing, and Sally Ball, associate professor of English, who encouraged her to find her voice. Her professors challenged her to be open minded as she was developing her creative skills.

“I would say you really learn how to read when you’re in the creative writing program at ASU,” Ventura said. “Having access to these incredibly accomplished writers who push you to read things that influenced them when they were your age was really substantial”

On top of her accomplishments as a writer, she is also a founding member of the Emerging Leaders program: a group of young professionals who serve on the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean’s Council to find new ways for the college and community to succeed.   

“I’m really proud and happy to be involved in this program,” Ventura said. “I can come back in a role that helps other people feel connected to their university again. I want to see the foundation of our work give way to a growing network of young alums who are empowering each other and themselves to make the most out of their careers.”

Ventura said she enjoys being able to bring recent graduates back into the support system of ASU and their fellow alumni because most people just want to take the degree and run. 

“The world is a lot smaller than you realize,” Ventura said. “I think it’s really important for ASU grads to understand the university still has something to offer them.”

Rachel Bunning

Communications program coordinator, School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies

ASU Thunderbird grad finds community, builds diplomacy along her path

September 25, 2017

This profile is part of a series highlighting the personal stories and achievements of Thunderbird students. Ready to read more? Subscribe to the Knowledge Network newsletter.

Gabrielle Gueye is on a path with a purpose. From AmeriCorps to the Peace Corps to Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University, each experience has paved the way for the next. Thunderbird Experience Gabrielle Gueye '17, USA, Thunderbird Master of Arts in Global Affairs and Management. Download Full Image

“Each one felt like a community,” she said. “And I’ve found that to be a common theme wherever I go.”

Gueye grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, and attended a performing arts school there. After high school, she was accepted into West Point but after a couple of years decided it wasn’t the right path for her. Gueye headed home to Ohio to complete her undergraduate studies at Kent State University.

“I had grown very interested in volunteering, so I applied to the Peace Corps. During the application process, I decided to get some volunteer experience, so I joined AmeriCorps and served in the Ohio Reading Corps. It was really fun — I was a literacy coach for kids from kindergarten through 3rd grade.” 

With AmeriCorps experience under her belt, Gueye began her Peace Corps service. She was sent to Ethiopia, where she was an English Language Improvement Advisor. “As a teacher-trainer, I was assigned to a cluster of schools where I would train primary school teachers in things like classroom management and lesson planning. I also taught grammar to 8th graders after school and ran gender clubs in a couple of schools. So the entire experience was a lot of fun.”

Not long after returning from Ethiopia, Gueye headed to Thunderbird. She was heartened “just to see the closeness of the students and the faculty — everyone knows everyone,” she said. “It’s a family environment, and that’s what I had a taste of in the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps.”

Thunderbird on the radar

Even before the Peace Corps, Gueye had her eye on Thunderbird. “I was interested in international travel and in being philanthropic — I wanted to do something that would impact people around the world,” she said. “So I was looking for a master’s program that would propel me in that direction.”

Her research led to Thunderbird. “I started reading more about it. The website had profiles about students from around the world, their experiences with TEM Labs and travels. I remember thinking, ‘Wow, that’s fascinating, I’d love to go to a school where could travel the world and have experiences related to business.’”

“I really like being around different people. That’s the biggest draw at Thunderbird — the people.”

Gueye looked at other business schools, but Thunderbird won her over. “A big draw was the student body — the fact that Thunderbird had so many international students,” she said.

That international focus struck a personal chord for Gueye, whose father is from Senegal. “Since I was born, I’ve always been around different cultures. I really like being around different people. So that’s probably the biggest draw at Thunderbird – the people.”

Confident that Thunderbird was the right fit, Gueye built a relationship with a recruiter. “I did this for a couple of years, just asking questions and staying in contact. And then I finally thought, ‘You know what, let’s go for it.’ While I was in Ethiopia, I did my application interviews so I was set up to go straight to Thunderbird afterwards.”

‘You have to listen’

Now that she’s at Thunderbird, Gueye sees the connections between all her experiences. “These lessons all kind of mesh into each other. In AmeriCorps, I was working with children. Yes, they’re super cute, but they’re also very smart and intuitive. The AmeriCorps experience got me feeling hopeful about the younger generation,” she says.

“You can’t just go into a country and say, ‘This is what you need.’ You have to listen.”

“Peace Corps was a different animal. I was in another country and working with adults. It taught me a lot about going outside of your comfort zone and really trying to be part of a community and understand the people and their needs. Adaptation and tolerance were the biggest lessons I learned there.

“It taught me how to listen,” she said. “You can’t just go into a country and say, ‘This is what you need,’ and expect them to roll with it. You have to listen.

“And all of this was only enhanced by the Thunderbird experience,” she said. “While Peace Corps was from just one cultural perspective, Thunderbird is from many. And not just the student body. The professors have so much experience outside of academia, and that’s reflected in the classroom. They share situations they’ve faced in different parts of the world, and they tie it into the lesson.”

“The variety of perspectives in the classroom is a major positive at Thunderbird.”

As an example, Gueye points to Assistant Professor Joshua Ault, who conducts debates in his class and gives every student a different role. “I love his style of teaching. Sometimes you have to take a role you may not agree with, but it forces you to think in other ways and put yourself in someone else’s shoes. The variety of perspectives in the classroom is one of the major positives at Thunderbird.”

“These takeaways could be applied to consulting, they could be applied to any type of work in the business world,” she said. “You have to listen.”

The path to diplomacy

As Gueye pursues her master's degree in global affairs and management, she’s counting on the program to prepare her for the next step. “Someone with my degree could do many different things. I’m interested in moving around, learning about different governments and people in different places. I’m looking at the Foreign Service and possibly diplomacy. It would align well with my experiences.”

“I especially want to go to West Africa – it’s near and dear to my heart because my dad is from Senegal — but I could go anywhere in the world,” she said. “I’m very flexible.”

Thunderbird Peace Corps Gabby

Gueye is already building those diplomatic skills as an international student advisor assistant at Thunderbird. In this role, she works with and advises international students to ensure they get the appropriate authorizations to do internships and remain in the United States for work after finishing at Thunderbird.

“I get to meet people from all over, which is awesome,” she said. “I get to learn the nuances of their cultures, and that helps you act more appropriately in certain situations. It makes you a more well-rounded and cultured person. And I think it prepares you do business better.”

And if a career in diplomacy becomes a reality, Gueye knows she’s in a great position right now to build cultural knowledge.

“It’s very important in diplomacy — or any globally focused career — because there are so many different stakeholders at the table. You never know who you’ll be in negotiations with or have to compromise with,” she said.

“You’ll have mutual understanding and more patience and appreciation for other people and their thought processes. You’ll be able to make meaningful connections and pass any barrier in front of you. And that will make for better deals and more lasting relationships,” she said.

“Those are the things you put in your toolkit and take with you from Thunderbird — they are going to serve you well.”